More Details about Ancient Metal Plates from the BBC

One of the codices in the collection of metal plates discovered in Jordan

One of the codices in the collection of metal plates discovered in Jordan

UPDATE: See the latest updates about this discovery at Jordanian Lead Plates: Authentic or Forgery?

A few days ago we wrote about an interesting discovery of ancient sealed metal plates that were found within the last few years in Jordan, and are starting to create a stir among archeologists. The BBC News religious affairs correspondent Robert Pigott just published more interesting details, and photos, of the plates, in a report entitled “Jordan battles to regain ‘priceless’ Christian relics“. The BBC also includes a set of 7 more detailed photos here.

Some additional details include:  

  • There are 70 or so “books” or codices in this collection, each between 5-15 leaves made from lead, and bound with lead rings.
  • The leaves are about the size of a credit card.
  • Some experts and suggesting the books may have been made by early Christians in the years just following the crucifixion.
  • There is uncertainty whether they are of Jewish or Christian origin, but several say there is evidence of Christian origin in the signs and symbols used in the books.
  • Some purported symbols include a cross, a tomb, and the city of Jerusalem.  A menorah is also seen as representing the holy of holies of the temple in Jerusalem, and the presence of God.
  • One of the only lines of texts yet to be translated from the books says “I shall walk uprightly,” a line from the Book of Revelation? (I’m unsure what reference they are referring to).  It’s been shown in the past that such a line is a kind of “worthiness” requirement for those who would ascend to the temple in ancient times (from Psalms 15).

Dr. Margaret Barker adds more commentary of what appears to be Christian provenance:

“We do know that on two occasions groups of refugees from the troubles in Jerusalem fled east, they crossed the Jordan near Jericho and then they fled east to very approximately where these books were said to have been found…

“[Another] one of the things that is most likely pointing towards a Christian provenance, is that these are not scrolls but books. The Christians were particularly associated with writing in a book form rather than scroll form, and sealed books in particular as part of the secret tradition of early Christianity.”

Again, extensive investigation must still be done by a host of experts before a solid understanding of the authenticity and meaning can be made from this discovery.  But as the director of Jordan’s department of antiquities, Ziad al-Saad, notes, it could be “the most important discovery in the history of archaeology.”


  1. larryco_
    Posted March 29, 2011 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

    One purely speculative thought that I have – based on the possible 1st century dating, the possible existence of both Christian and Jewish symbols on it, and the fact that it was found in Jordan – is that it may have been produced by the Ebionites. The Ebionites were a Christian sect, located in the Lavant, that accepted Jesus as the Messiah (but not divine) and continued practicing as Jews, combing the teachings of Jesus with the Law of Moses. Obviously there is still much more to be researched concerning these plates.

  2. Yvette
    Posted March 29, 2011 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

    Does this look like ‘the tree of life’ vision, with people represented as dots, scattered at the edges, but uniform above the tree by the rod of iron and with groups of people higher up, looking down on them from a columned building? Every antiquity is open to interpretation of course, but this bears a striking symilarity. I wish the picture was clearer.

  3. Posted March 29, 2011 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

    It is highly doubtful that it represents the “tree of life” vision. But the palm tree does symbolize certain attributes of the temple.

  4. sheena
    Posted March 30, 2011 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    it must be an ancient personal journal.

  5. larryco_
    Posted March 30, 2011 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    As I’ve read and pondered this find some more, I find one prominent part of the most talked about plate curious: at the forefront of it is the cross. From everything I’ve ever read, the earliest Christians did not feature the cross in their depictions. It doesn’t show up in the earliest Christian catacombs and seems to be a later addition to Christian symbolism, preceeded by the fish symbol (with it’s greek c-x symbolism). If they are authentic, this might move the earliest date to the 3rd century, despite the initial rust analysis, which would still be really cool.

  6. Posted March 30, 2011 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

    So far the “cross” has only been mentioned by one who purportedly saw it on the plates. No photos have been released which show a cross as of yet.

  7. Posted March 30, 2011 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

    Wow, this is really amazing. If they are a hoax then they’re an amazing hoax! If they’re real, I’d really like to know what they say.

    If they do turn out to be real though, please understand that any similarities to Joseph Smith’s purported ancient metal plates fastened with rings is purely coincidental.

  8. Posted March 30, 2011 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

    Lol.. Of course! No correlation.

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